Volunteers wanted for our 2013 land-based survey

We are looking for volunteers to assist with our 2013 land-based survey. The research will be conducted for a four hour period each day from 8 July – 15 September (the peak migration period). Volunteers will carry out a number of roles, including observing, recording data and plotting the position of whales on an Apple Ipad application. No previous experience in fauna surveys is required. However, to ensure a high standard of scientific rigour, volunteers are required to undergo training in the survey methods and we ask that volunteers spend at least two weeks with us.

Whilst helping out with the survey, volunteers will be camping on site. Volunteers will be required to contribute to daily camp duties as well as the scientific data collection. The camp is located near the beach. It is a great place to go exploring and has a lovely, communal vibe.

If you are interested in volunteering with us or would like some more information about the research please contact us:

E: kimberleywhaleresearch@hotmail.com

Woodside numbers ‘too low’: research

Andrew Tillett, Broome Advertiser, March 21, 2013, 


Environmentalists claim Woodside has drastically underestimated the number of whales that swim in the waters off James Price Point as they step up their campaign against the proposed gas hub.

A new report by the Kimberley Community Whale Research project says between 12,108 and 15,876 humpback whales passed within 8km of the James Price Point shoreline during the 2012 migration season, compared to 1000 that Woodside’s global consultant RPS estimated would do so.

The RPS report was submitted to the WA Environmental Protection Authority which approved the LNG precinct proposal for the Browse Basin last July.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke is currently considering the application but Woodside’s project partner Shell is keen on processing LNG on a floating platform which is cheaper and has less impact on the environment.

Researchers for the Kimberley project recorded 2669 humpback whales, including 172 cow-calf pairs, while surveying the waters off James Price Point four hours a day for three months last year.

That figure excludes double-counting and was extrapolated to give the 12,000-15,000 range.

The survey was overseen by marine scientists and conducted on behalf of the Goolarabooloo traditional owners and Broome Community No Gas Campaign.

Project researcher Charlotte Buckton said the study also found the waters off James Price Point were much more important for whales than claimed, including being used for calving.

“Whales carry out a number of activities in the James Price Point region, including resting, milling, playing and slow swimming behaviours and often we observed newborn calves that were engaging in their vital first interactions with their mothers,” she said.

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the report “reinforces the inadequacy of the environmental assessment already undertaken by the EPA and the WA Government”.

However, Woodside stood by its whale research, with a spokesman last week saying four years of scientific studies had found 95 per cent of migrating whales swam more than 8km off James Price Point on their way to and from Camden Sound, 350km north, which independent researchers had identified as the main calving area for humpbacks.

“Thousands of humpback whales migrate up and down the WA coastline each year,” he said.

The EPA said its “rigorous” environmental impact assessment of the project examined all key environmental factors, including whales, before making its recommendations to the State Government. RPS said it was confident it had assisted with “robust scientific surveys”.

Want to help protect kimberley whales? Write a letter today!

The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has the final say on whether the gas processing facility will proceed at James Price Point. In making his approval decision, he has to consider ‘matters of national environmental significance’, including humpback whales.

We are calling on individuals to write a letter to Minister Burke reminding him about the significance of the James Price Point area for calving humpback whales.

If you are interested in writing to Minister Burke, please click on the link below and follow our instructions.

Letter writing guide

Release of 2012 land-based survey results

Today we released a scientific report that contains the findings of our 2012 land-based humpback whale survey that was conducted near the site of the proposed Browse LNG development at James Price Point. To view the report or a concise summary of our results, please click on the links below:

A community survey of humpback whales near James Price Point – March 2013

Summary of results

Humpback whale breaching near James Price Point.


Woodside’s whale count is way too low, say gas hub opponents

Graeme LLoyd, Environment Editor, The Australian 10th August 2012Image

Photo by Damien Kelly

MIGRATING whales and newborn calves are streaming past Woodside’s proposed $30 billion James Price Point gas hub site near Broome, eclipsing estimates in the company’s environmental impact assessment, which has received a record number of appeals.

Volunteers, co-ordinated by marine biologist Maddie Goddard, counted 1423 individual whales within 8km of the red cliff coastline in 132 hours of observation between July 1 and Tuesday.

The count included 1233 individual whales and 95 calving pairs.

“Those figures suggest 8600 whales would have been sighted in the migration corridor if observations had taken place around the clock,” volunteer Charlotte Buckton said.

The Woodside environmental report estimates that only 1000 whales will move through the corridor within 8km of the coast at James Price Point each season.

Conservationists are concerned that the whale migration will be disturbed by a proposed 8km-long sea wall stretching 6km out to sea at James Price point.

Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit has said the environmental assessment of Woodside’s proposed James Price Point development lacked scientific rigour and should not be accepted.

It lacked baseline data on which to make assessments, contained contradictory statements, failed to assess a proposed increase in scope, and failed to apply the precautionary principle.

In an appeal to the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptance of Woodside’s environmental impact assessment, the university said poor data collection and analysis meant there was a high level of uncertainty over the development’s potential impact.

Murdoch dolphin expert Simon Allen said the movement of whales less than 1km off the James Price Point site yesterday demonstrated the sensitivity of the area.

The Woodside report said less than 5 per cent of humpback whales passed within 8km of the coastline.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the impact of the gas hub development on whales and dolphins would be manageable.

“Provided the strict conditions recommended are implemented, impacts to marine fauna will be managed and are unlikely to be significant at the species population level,” Dr Vogel said.

He said the population of humpback whales had continued to increase since whaling ceased in the 1960s, despite the increase in iron ore and petroleum industries.

However, those opposed to Woodside’s plans say the James Price Point development’s sea-wall would disturb the migration.

The EPA has approved the Woodside development subject to 29 conditions and offsets.

The WA Office of the Appeals Convenor said 244 appeals had been lodged to the James Price Point approval decision.

Mr Allen is researching a potential new species of dolphin discovered near James Price Point that went unnoticed in Woodside’s environmental assessment.